Biden to remove Houthis from terrorist list

The new administration had already proceeded to lift the sanctions while it was deciding on the removal from the blacklist
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REUTERS/TOM BRENNER  -   U.S. President Joe Biden delivers a foreign policy speech as Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken listen during a visit to the State Department in Washington, U.S. February 4, 2021

The US government will remove the Houthi rebels from its list of terrorist organisations, reversing a decision taken by former President Donald Trump in his last days in power, local media reported. 

According to these reports, the State Department has already notified Congress on Friday of its intention to remove the Houthis from its terrorist designation. 

Critics of Trump's decision, aimed more at punishing Iran, the main ally of the Houthis, argued that the designation increased the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, the largest on the planet at the moment according to the United Nations. 

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AFP/MOHAMMED HUWAIS - Houthi rebel fighter

In a statement, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said the Biden administration's decision "will save lives"

"The designation had not affected the Houthis in any practical way, but it stopped the delivery of food and other crucial aid inside Yemen and would have prevented effective political negotiation," the senator said. 

The armed conflict in Yemen began in 2014, when Iranian-backed Houthi rebels occupied Sana'a and other provinces in the country.  

The fighting escalated after the Saudi-led Arab coalition, which has admitted to attacks in which dozens of civilians have been killed, entered the war in March 2015 with the support of the United States while Barack Obama was still in power. 

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AFP/ MOHAMMED HUWAIS - A Houthi stands guard in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, on 6 May 2020, amid measures to confine certain areas to curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus

The United Nations considers the situation in Yemen to be the biggest humanitarian crisis on the planet and estimates that around 80 per cent of the population requires some form of aid to cover their basic needs. 

Friday's decision comes just 24 hours after Biden announced that he is suspending Washington's support for the Saudi-led Arab coalition that has been engaged in the bloody war in Yemen for the past five years.  

The withdrawal of support also means that Washington will suspend arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that Trump had initiated.